County defers massive west-end rezoning

Rural crescent advocates have come out against a plan to put a golf course and 1,245 homes on land southwest of Haymarket in the last week, leading county officials to defer action until their concerns are heard by the developer.

The land in question is the 663-acre triangle formed by Thoroughfare Road, U.S. 15 and the Norfolk Southern railroad just south of the vacant Midwood business park.

The area is called Greater South Market. The rezoning was submitted by the Haymarket Investment Syndicate.

The county’s long-range land-use plan calls for keeping 266 acres for agricultural use, but an amendment tied to the rezoning would reduce the amount to 78 acres.

More than a dozen people spoke during “Citizens Time” at the Prince William Board of County Supervisors meeting Tuesday, some expressing disappointment the public hearing was deferred.

It is an assault on the rural crescent boundaries that were agreed to in 1998 changes to the county’s comprehensive land-use plan, said Elena Schlossberg, leader of Advocates for the Rural Crescent, in an interview. The board last year rejected a plan amendment to allow golf courses in the rural crescent, she said.

“They’re trying to defer it until after the June primary,” she said.

Not true, said Board of County Supervisors Chairman Sean T. Connaughton, R-at-large. No objections were raised against the plan until last week, he said.

“Our staff is supporting this and worked on this,” he said. “There was [no opposition] at the planning commission. Until this weekend, we had not heard of any major concern and now we’re told all these people will be here.”

With controversial matters the board typically gets the developer to meet with residents to answer their questions.

The staff report states that the rezoning is an improvement because it refines the irregularly shaped boundary between the rural crescent and development of the area and cuts out unwanted uses on the western side of the area.

Existing agreements and zoning allow for 256 town houses out of 525 residential units to be built along U.S. 15 with strip shopping center, 20,000-square-foot lots along Thoroughfare Road, and 44 acres of light industrial along U.S. 15, staff wrote.

The new plan pulls east the high density zoning along Thoroughfare Road and establishes a wide area of open space along Beverly Road, staff said.

Connaughton said the planning commission is the board’s “canary in the coal mine.” Only one person spoke against it then — slow-growther Martha Hendley.

Schlossberg said rural crescent advocates didn’t speak at the planning commission because that body is leaving it to the county supervisors to reject developments.

“After the Gainesville sector plan, many people thought, ‘Why should we even bother? They’re passing everything anyway.’ If you want to energize people, you have to pick your battles,” she said.

Citizens came out Tuesday with strong words for county supervisors.

Jim Price of Gainesville said even Supervisor Edgar S. Wilbourn, I-Gainesville, backed off a proposal last year to allow golf courses in the rural crescent.

“You’re not stupid people, but here it is again. The same asininity,” Price said. Smoothing out the geometry of the boundaries is hardly justification for cutting into the rural crescent, he said.

“My prayer every night is in this year’s election people are paying attention,” Price said. “I hope they are paying attention to how ludicrous your actions have been over the last four years.”

Staff writer Chris Newman can be reached at (703) 878-8062.